The Danger of Groupthink

A Surprising Question

How many things which are believed to be true in life are so based upon empirical and provable evidence as opposed to the established “consensus” of belief among a people as a group? The answer to this question may surprise, although the history of the world should prove it to be a common problem.

An Example

For example, it is a “commonly understood” idea that the human brain is divided into “left” and “right” areas, with each side being determinant as to certain focuses of behavior. The “left” is considered to be logical or analytical, whereas the “right” is considered to be more creative and expressive. The problem with this idea is that it has been disproved through literally decade’s worth of study on brain function, including scans demonstrating a unity of brain activity for many actions.

Even though in this example reality has demonstrated the theory to be either totally false or at least not as “cut and dry” as assumed, it is still the basis for educational curricula as well as some psychology. Can a conclusion based upon a wrong assumption be true? Consider how this can compare to religious ideas.

The “Religious World”

In the general “religious world” there are many ideas as to the nature of God, the purpose of organized religion in general and Christianity in specific, how one should approach God, how one should behave, etc. Many of these ideas are the products of years of “consensus” among groups of peoples driven in large part by tradition. Does the common belief of a people have any bearing upon the reality of revealed truth in God’s Word?

The answer should be an obvious “no”. However, are Christians immune from this problem? Is it possible for the body of Christ to arrive at conclusions of Biblical ideas not based upon the text itself, but instead upon the common understanding of that text? Is it possible for “traditional understandings” to come about even among people who claim the Bible as the sole authority?

A Question of Approach

The question of whether this is possible has everything to do with the approach to study. In a Bible class, do those gathered say, “I think this means…” or do they let the text speak for itself? A study driven by “I think” usually ends in ignorance. And the only thing worse than that is the groupthink of shared ignorance!

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